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The Bobby Greenlease Kidnapping

Robert Cosgrove Greenlease, JR was born on February 3, 1947 to Robert and Virginia Greenlease of Kansas City, Mo. Robert was in his late 60’s and was overjoyed to at the birth of his first biological son. Virginia was half her husband’s age and was a doting mother to Bobby. Robert was one of the wealthiest men in the Midwest, owning nearly all Cadillac dealerships from Texas to South Dakota. His estimated net worth was around $24 million, that is $230 million today. His first marriage had ended in divorce. He had one adopted son from this marriage, Paul. Paul was a troublesome youth that had spent time in Kemper Military Academy to straighten him out. Paul ended up being close to his father and worked alongside him. Bobby adored his big brother Paul. 

On September 28, 1953 Robert left home, taking Bobby to his Catholic school. He did not notice the car sitting outside of his home watching his family. In this car was Carl Hall and his lover Bonnie Heady.

Carl Hall was born into a very wealthy family in Pleasanton, KS. As a teenager he attended Kemper Military Academy.  Here he met Paul Greenlease. He also discovered alcohol and began to abuse it, eventually getting kicked out of the school. His mother was so disappointed in him that she disinherited him. He did, however, inherit $200k from his grandmother. This is equivalent to about $3 million today. This amount of money could have set him up for the rest of his life, but he had other plans. He moved to Kansas City, and spent money on drugs and alcohol, gambling, and women. In just 5 years he was broke. He began robbing cabs for money and was sentence to 5 years in the penitentiary for it. He was out just over two years, and in May 1953 he met Bonnie Heady, who was 7 years his senior. Bonnie was recently divorced, and owned her own home in St. Joseph, MO. She had suffered abuse at the hands of her husband and began drinking heavily at that time. To support her addiction, she had taken up prostitution. Carl had gone home with Bonnie that first night and never left. About a month after they met, Carl told Bonnie of a plan he had been working up. He figured the easiest way to make a bunch of money was to kidnap a rich kid and demand a ransom. Bonnie allegedly thought the plan was crazy, and even offered to sell her house if they needed money. In the end, she would do anything to keep him happy, and agreed to his plan. Carl had planned on kidnapping the Greenlease child since his time at the Kemper Academy. 

The couple arrived outside the Greenlease home early that morning and waited until they saw Robert take the young boy to school. At around 11a.m. Bonnie arrived by cab at the private Catholic school. She told the young nun who answered the door that Bobby’s mother had suffered a heart attack and she needed to take him to the hospital. She introduced herself as Bobby’s Aunt. The young nun sister Miranda was new at the school, having just arrived from France. The mother superior was out on business and the principle was teaching a class. The sister fetched Bobby, telling him his aunt was here to take him home. The boy asked to take his Jerusalem medal, which he had received for doing well on a test. After taking the medal, he walked right up to Bonnie, grabbed her hand, and they walked out the door. There was no indication that she was a stranger to him. William Creech, the cab driver said he assumed the woman knew the boy by the way they talked. She even asked him about his parrot, calling it by name. He dropped them off and they both got into a blue Ford.

By 11:30, a Sister at the school phoned the Greenlease house to check on Mrs. Greenlease. Virginia answered the phone and the ruse was quickly discovered. She called her husband, who rushed home, contacting the chief of the Kansas City police and the FBI. They began questioning the family about enemies and asking about suspicious phone calls or letter recently. That is when the maid remembered a phone call to the Greenlease home. Around the middle of September, Bonnie had called the Greenlease home. She stated that she was from the public-school system and asked about any children in the home. She asked where they went to school and about any pets belonging to the children. The maid simple answered the questions without any thought and returned to her duties. 

The Postal system was put on alert, and the first ransom letter was intercepted within the few hours of the kidnapping, even with the address being incorrect. The kidnappers demanded $600,000 in 10s and 20s. The letter was signed “M”. That is the equivalent of 5.7 million today, and at the time was the largest ransom ever demanded. This led the police to believe they may be dealing with the Mob. They were instructed to drive up and down Main street, between 29th and 39th streets with a white t-shirt tied to there antenna to confirm receipt, in which they did.

The note also ordered them not to allow police involvement, and the police an FBI were sent away from the Greenlease home. Robert assembled his closest business associates, Mr O'Neill and Will Letterman to aid in the investigation. He said to pay the money. He did not care about the money, he just wanted his boy back home. They brought in help and worked in 24 hour shifts to assemble the money and record serial numbers. It took four days to assemble the money. The kidnappers became impatient. Another ransom letter came with Bobby’s Jerusalem medal and warn them to act fast or they will never see their little boy again. They placed an ad in the paper telling “M” that the money was ready in received drop off instructions. Mr O'Neill and Letterman left to make the drop. They return carrying the duffel bag still full of money. They were instructed to drop the bag at the church, but did not as there were so many people around they feared someone else would pick it up. Then Virginia was sure they had just sealed Bobby's fate. the kidnappers made another phone call to the house and this time Virginia snatched up the phone and demanded they give clear instructions for the drop. She received the instructions, and the drop was prepared. There was never any attempt made to trace the calls. The kidnappers had sent half a dozen notes and made more than 15 calls. The money was to be dropped off a bridge in a secluded park. The men dropped the bag as instructed and left the area. On the way out, they met another car and wondered if this could be the kidnappers. The men headed to Pittsburgh Kansas to await the instructions for picking up Bobby. 

As Carl drove to the site to pick up the ransom, he met the car he was sure would be the men doing the drop. He was scared that they may have gun his license plates and would be after them. He picked up Bonnie, bought 2 large metal cases and transfer the money into them. The couple fled to Saint Louis, were they rented a furnished apartment on Arsenal street. The couple continue to drink heavily. Bonnie was not happy that they were staying in this rundown apartment and this started the fight between the two. This fight ended with Carl punching Bonnie at her passing out. He then put $2500 in her purse and left her there, taking the rest of the money. He ended up in a cab, driven by John Hager. He gave the cabbie the name Steve Strand, and said he was traveling pharmaceutical salesman. He offered the cabby $2500 as a retainer. He needed some new clothes, drugs, to rent a car, and women. He asked him to Coral Court on route 66. He continued to drink heavily and flaunt his money in front of the man, showing him his gun at one point. The cabby was very suspicious of the cases and “Steve” explained that they held samples. John suggested they used a secret knock so that Steve would know it was him and it would be safe to open the door. They agreed on the knock, and Steve continued to drink, an eventually passed out. He was awoken by a knock on his door, the secret knock. When he answered the door, however, John was not on the other side. Instead there was a man known and feared on the streets of Saint Louis, Lieutenant Lou Shoulders. Shoulders was a 25 to 30-year veteran with Saint Louis Police Department. he was accompanied by officer Elmer Dolan. They found the keys to the luggage and found the ransom money and an insurance business card with the name Carl Hall on it, even though the man in the room had given them a different name. They were positive they had someone involved in the Greenlease kidnapping and they began to interrogate Carl. They knew he had a partner and Carl was quick to give her up. They found Bonnie drunk, with a black eye Ann passed out where Carl had left her. During the interrogation, Karl suffered major alcohol withdrawals and even had a nurse come into administer Amphetamines. The couple admitted to the kidnapping and then told the story of what happen to Bobby.

After picking up the boy from school, the couple drove with the boy to a secluded spot in Overland Park KS. There are different reports on what happened next. In one account, Bonnie got out to walk a dog that they had with them, while Carl went around the car and shot Bobby. Other stories say he beat the boy and tried strangling him before shooting him. Some even say he missed the first time and then hit him the second time. The couple then drove to Bonnie's house with Bobby's body in the car. They had dug a grave the night before, and they place his body inside covering it with lime before planting Flowers on top of it. The FBI located the body near the porch of Bonnie's house on the morning of October 7, 1953. The Greenlease family dentist identified the body. The couple appeared in court October 30th in both plead guilty to murder. On November 19th, after hearing all the details of the crime, a jury in federal court in Kansas City recommended the death penalty after only 1 hour in 8 minutes. Just 15 minutes later the judge sentenced both to be executed on December 18th, in the gas chamber of Missouri State Penitentiary. 

Bonnie was resigned to her fate, and the strongest of the two. She was said to have set outside Carl cell stroking his hair as he trembled and shook from fear. They dined together for their last meal of fried chicken. They were allowed a time alone just before the execution, and Carl emerged with lipstick smeared on his face and neck. Bonnie was concerned at how she looked to those watching the execution and curled her hair and made up her face that morning. The couple were placed side-by-side in the chairs inside the gas chamber, and Bonnie thank the warden for his kindness.  Both were blindfolded in the chamber, and after the door closed their mouths were seen moving, though no one knows what they were saying. Carl Hall was pronounced dead at 12:12 AM and Bonnie just 20 seconds later. The two were buried more than 100 miles apart. 

Half the ransom money went missing, was only about $250,000 being checked into evidence. Lou Shoulders was interrogated for hours by the FBI. He then resigned and flew to Hawaii. Later both he and officer Dolan would be convicted of perjury. Shoulders was sentence to 3 years and Dolan was sentenced to 2 years. There was one story regarding the cab driver and his connection to mob boss Joe Costello. It is believed that Lou Shoulders was also on the payroll of Costello, and that Joe was waiting outside the hotel room when shoulders took Carl into custody. This missing money was never recovered. Karl had claimed at one point that he buried the other half, and later recanted that story.

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